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mainspring

[meyn-spring] /ˈmeɪnˌsprɪŋ/
noun
1.
the principal spring in a mechanism, as in a watch.
2.
the chief motive power; the impelling cause.
Origin
1585-1595
1585-95; main1 + spring
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples for mainspring
  • If you're not looking at the mainspring, you're only operating on the surface.
  • Preclusive action, not private profit, has been the mainspring of imperialism.
  • The mechanical timer is a verge type, three-gear timer, powered by a torsional mainspring.
  • Drugs are a lucrative business and a mainspring of global criminal activity.
  • Suddenly, the political mainspring of the plan was gone.
  • But the humor of him who feeds en melancholy is begotten in charity, the mainspring of all genius.
British Dictionary definitions for mainspring

mainspring

/ˈmeɪnˌsprɪŋ/
noun
1.
the principal power spring of a mechanism, esp in a watch or clock
2.
the chief cause or motive of something
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for mainspring
n.

1590s, of watches, clocks, etc., from main (adj.) + spring (n.3). Figurative use from 1690s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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